Mine the Glory, Mine the Power

Mine the DVD.

Power Jet XT-7, ca 1987 and Captain Power DVD set, ca 2011

Special thanks to my mother-in-law, who despite the normal tensions that exist in a mother-in-law/son-in-law relationship, has a pretty solid knack for getting me a Christmas present I really enjoy every year.
This DVD set is pretty top-notch for the price range. The transfer is good but not perfect — in particular, the title sequence is a little fuzzy, and there is a bit of choppiness in the high-action sequences. The visual quality isn’t quite as good as, say, the remastered Doctor Who classic series DVDs, but those run about as much for one six-part serial as this entire season box set. It’s still quite good in the less action-heavy sequences, and Soaron cleaned up so nice that I’m half-convinced they just went back in and re-rendered all his models using someone’s laptop in their spare time. There are no subtitles or captions, which is unfortunate. Again, easy to forgive under the circumstances, but it’s a shame that the hearing-impaired are going to miss out. And, of course, for my own selfish reasons, it would have been helpful to have a transcript I could look at to verify some of the dialog.
The commentary and interviews are great. It’s a shame they couldn’t get in a few more commentaries, but I can’t imagine it’s easy to come up with 22 minutes worth of things to say about a show you were involved in a quarter century ago for each of twenty episodes.
Conspicuous by their absence are the direct-to-video animated “Training Videos”. I can only guess that the distribution rights for those were different, having been made by Armtic, a now-defunct anime studio. They don’t add much to the experience, but it means I’ll be toting those three ancient VHS tapes along with me until the day I die. A real collector’s edition might have also benefited from something like a commercials gallery, though the quality of the clips they show in the documentary suggests that those may no longer exist in decent quality recordings.
The documentary is a real treat, providing some framing and exposition that goes a long way to help us modern viewers understand the reasons for some of the really bizarre design and storytelling choices, and they talk at length about the direction they would have taken the show in the second season — a lot of which surprised me, and I’ll go over it in length as my review series progresses (Sorry about the hiatus. Sadly, my son doesn’t really have the attention span for a half-hour action-adventure yet.). They also debunk and confirm various bits of theoryJMS goes so far as to mention that “people on the internet” had identified rape symbolism in the depiction of digitization. Given what a quick googling of “captain power” and “rape symbolism”, I gotta ask: did I just get a shout-out? I’ve thrown out here.
One of the really weird coincidences I noticed though, was the episode ordering on the DVD: they’re in the same order as the order I’d previously announced for my reviews. So that’s convenient. The upshot for you folks at home is that I imagine my screen shots will be a lot less grainy and color-corrected.
I will point out this: I wasn’t able to get my Power Jet XT-7 to interact with the DVD. They mention the difficulties they had during development getting the toys to work, so my suspicion is that the process of deinterlacing and upconverting that 25-year-old NTSC signal to play on my 1080p screen probably destroyed the carrier signal. I’ll see if I can dig out a dumber DVD player and a CRT screen and try again when I get the chance. I also can’t rule out that my 25-year-old Power Jet XT-7 just isn’t up to it. If you can make it out in the picture, the thing is suffering from a few decades of grime and a couple of missing parts. It does make all the expected shooty-sounds, though it power cycles if you shake it too hard.
In all, this is a great DVD set, well worth the price. I’d probably have paid double for a set with more special features and more work done on the remastering, but at this price, and given the obscurity of the series, it’s clearly a labor of love. It’s priced like a budget shovelware release, but it makes a really serious effort that you don’t usually see with comparable season boxsets for shows of this vintage. Captain Power aficionados have undoubtedly already bought a copy, but if you’re just curious: this is worth it. For that matter, if you’re a fan of Babylon 5, this is probably worth it just to see an example of JMS developing some of the stylistic elements he would later use.
Next time, I’m going to go into a bit more detail on one of the coolest extras on the DVD. Until then, Power On!
Oh, and one last thing: I’d like to give a small shout-out to CPL of Captain Power Lives!, who has a fantastic collection of images of hard-to-find or unreleased Captain Power toys and links to various other reviews of the DVD set.

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